By Rick Halton, vice president, marketing and product, Lumeon.
Since it was first recorded late last year in China, the spread of COVID-19 has accelerated around the world, rapidly creating a global pandemic. The number of new cases is increasing exponentially, putting the western hemisphere in particular on a frightening trajectory, as health systems struggle to battle the virus.
Though billions of individuals around the world are undergoing mandated lockdowns and committing to physical distancing, hospitals continue to be engulfed in an onslaught of COVID-19 patients. One of the most significant impacts of this virus is how rapidly it is overwhelming health systems, consuming critical resources including inpatient beds, intensive care ventilators and importantly, care teams themselves.
Fortunately, technology has incredible potential to help automate and coordinate care communication and tasks. By taking advantage of agile technology platforms, health systems can rapidly deploy new use cases to help deal with the crisis – from early risk identification, screening and patient sign-posting, to helping patients reduce anxiety and self-manage their symptoms.
By leveraging automation, health system leaders can control the curve far more efficiently than ever before. The promise of automation is to ease the COVID-19 burden on staff and resources, giving them the arsenal to fight this disease and ensuring that any future outbreaks never get the chance to evolve from an epidemic to a global pandemic. When it comes to applying automation in the fight against COVID-19, four particular use cases come to mind:
Automated Awareness Campaigns
Tech capabilities that are already prevalent in the public-health sector can also play a critical role in controlling the current pandemic and future outbreaks. For instance, most health systems use Population Health Management (PHM) or Business Intelligence (BI) software that can quickly create and segment cohorts of patients. These solutions can help to identify people and communities at highest risk of COVID-19 complications, based on variables that go beyond the patient’s medical history. Different cohorts with varying degrees of risk can be created, such as the elderly, those with a pre-existing disease including respiratory problems, or those residing in high-risk locations.
Campaigns can then be directed at these cohorts and tailored to address their frequently asked questions or wide-spread myths surrounding COVID-19, as well as advising on how to protect against the virus and self-manage symptoms. Campaigns might also include tips for social distancing or advice about the risk in their specific communities. A critical consideration is how effectively the data can be anonymized with respect to the patient’s consent, along with opt-in/out preferences.
Depending on communication preferences – often found in the Electronic Health Record (EHR) system – email, voice and SMS campaigns can be sent out to each cohort. Using these communication tools while targeting specific cohorts of the community can go a long way toward providing reassurance and preventing panic visits to health centers and hospitals.
Automation technology can also enable more comprehensive screening solutions that proactively assess risk. In this use case, a cohort of vulnerable patients is automatically engaged with a survey that screens for symptoms and, depending on the results from the survey, may then be proactively monitored for the next several weeks. If a patient’s symptoms increase in severity or frequency, they might then be directed to a nearby clinic, with the system automatically generating a list of potential locations based on the patient’s zip code.
This form of automated proactive screening can significantly improve detection of the highly contagious virus and eliminates exposure by allowing doctors to evaluate patients’ symptoms and triage without direct contact. It also limits hospital intake to patients who are most likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19, instead of flooding providers unnecessarily and straining limited resources.